High levels of acute and chronic stress are known to impair problem-solving and creativity on a broad range of tasks. Despite this evidence, we know little about protective factors for mitigating the deleterious effects of stress on problem-solving. Building on previous research showing that self-affirmation can buffer stress, we tested whether an experimental manipulation of self-affirmation improves problem-solving performance in chronically stressed participants. Eighty undergraduates indicated their perceived chronic stress over the previous month and were randomly assigned to either a self-affirmation or control condition. They then completed 30 difficult remote associate problem-solving items under time pressure in front of an evaluator. Results showed that self-affirmation improved problem-solving performance in underperforming chronically stressed individuals. This research suggests a novel means for boosting problem-solving under stress and may have important implications for understanding how self-affirmation boosts academic achievement in school settings.
Burnout is the result of prolonged workplace exposure to chronic stress factors and may present itself in one of the following subtypes: “frenetic”, “under-challenged” and “worn-out”. The aims of the present study were to identify the causes of workplace discomfort that affect employees in large organizations and to determine the predictive power of these causes with regard to the burnout subtypes.
Two calling melodies of Polish were investigated, the routine call, used to call someone for an everyday reason, and the urgent call, which conveys disapproval of the addressee’s actions. A Discourse Completion Task was used to elicit the two melodies from Polish speakers using twelve names from one to four syllables long; there were three names per syllable count, and speakers produced three tokens of each name with each melody. The results, based on eleven speakers, show that the routine calling melody consists of a low F0 stretch followed by a rise-fall-rise; the urgent calling melody, on the other hand, is a simple rise-fall. Systematic differences were found in the scaling and alignment of tonal targets: the routine call showed late alignment of the accentual pitch peak, and in most instances lower scaling of targets. The accented vowel was also affected, being overall louder in the urgent call. Based on the data and comparisons with other Polish melodies, we analyze the routine call as LH* !H-H% and the urgent call as H* L-L%. We discuss the results and our analysis in light of recent findings on calling melodies in other languages, and explore their repercussions for intonational phonology and the modeling of intonation.
The present study investigated the effect of acute stress on attentional bias to threat using behavioral and ERP methods. Sixty-two male participants were randomly assigned to a stress condition (Trier Social Stress Test) or a control condition. To examine the impact of stress-induced cortisol on attentional bias to threat, participants in the stress group were split into Low- and High cortisol responders. All participants were then administered a modified dot probe task in which the cues were neutral and angry faces. Behavioral results showed a pattern of attentional bias toward threat in the Control group but not in the stress group. For the ERPs, the P100 peaked earlier for the angry-cued targets than the neutral-cued targets in the Control group, which suggests a rapid, adaptive response toward threat. However, this effect was not observed in the stress group, suggesting a suppressed attentional bias under stress. In addition, the stress group (including both Low and High cortisol responders) showed reduced P300 amplitude to target onset than the Control group. These results suggest that acute stress disrupts attentional bias to threat including a reduction in early bias to threat in addition to a subsequent change of attention allocation.
Objectives. The global burden of burnout cost is in excess of $300 billion annually. Locally, just under half of working Australians experience high levels of occupational burnout. Consequently, burnout interventions are paramount to organisational productivity. Exercise has the potential to provide a multilevel and cost effective burnout intervention. The current study aims to extend the literature by comparing cardiovascular with resistance exercise to assess their relative effectiveness against well-being, perceived stress, and burnout. Design. Participants were 49 (36 females and 13 males) previously inactive volunteers ranging in age from 19 to 68 that completed a four week exercise program of either cardiovascular, resistance, or no exercise (control). Randomised control trial design was employed. Method. Participants were measured against the Subjective Exercise Experience Scale, the Perceived Stress Scale, and the Maslach Burnout Inventory. Results. After four weeks of exercise participants had greater positive well-being and personal accomplishment, and concomitantly less psychological distress, perceived stress, and emotional exhaustion. Cardiovascular exercise was found to increase well-being and decrease psychological distress, perceived stress, and emotional exhaustion. Resistance training was noticeably effective in increasing well-being and personal accomplishment and to reduce perceived stress. The present findings revealed large effect sizes suggesting that exercise may be an effective treatment for burnout. However, given a small sample size further research needs to be conducted. Conclusion. Exercise has potential to be an effective burnout intervention. Different types of exercise may assist employees in different ways. Organisations wishing to proactively reduce burnout can do so by encouraging their employees to access regular exercise programs.
Age-appropriate criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in young children have been established. The present study investigated the long-term course of such PTSD and its predictors in young children.
Intergenerational transmission of emotional trauma through amygdala-dependent mother-to-infant transfer of specific fear
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published over 3 years ago
Emotional trauma is transmitted across generations. For example, children witnessing their parent expressing fear to specific sounds or images begin to express fear to those cues. Within normal range, this is adaptive, although pathological fear, such as occurs in posttraumatic stress disorder or specific phobias, is also socially transmitted to children and is thus of clinical concern. Here, using a rodent model, we report a mother-to-infant transfer of fear to a novel peppermint odor, which is dependent on the mother expressing fear to that smell in pups' presence. Examination of pups' neural activity using c-Fos early gene expression and (14)C 2-deoxyglucose autoradiography during mother-to-infant fear transmission revealed lateral and basal amygdala nuclei activity, with a causal role highlighted by pharmacological inactivation of pups' amygdala preventing the fear transmission. Maternal presence was not needed for fear transmission, because an elevation of pups' corticosterone induced by the odor of the frightened mother along with a novel peppermint odor was sufficient to produce pups' subsequent aversion to that odor. Disruption of axonal tracts from the Grueneberg ganglion, a structure implicated in alarm chemosignaling, or blockade of pups' alarm odor-induced corticosterone increase prevented transfer of fear. These memories are acquired at younger ages compared with amygdala-dependent odor-shock conditioning and are more enduring following minimal conditioning. Our results provide clues to understanding transmission of specific fears across generations and its dependence upon maternal induction of pups' stress response paired with the cue to induce amygdala-dependent learning plasticity. Results are discussed within the context of caregiver emotional responses and adaptive vs. pathological fears social transmission.
Psychosocial stress is a public health burden in modern societies. Chronic stress-induced disease processes are, in large part, mediated via the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary system. We asked whether the contemplative mental training of different practice types targeting attentional, socio-affective (for example, compassion), or socio-cognitive abilities (for example, perspective-taking) in the context of a 9-month longitudinal training study offers an effective means for psychosocial stress reduction. Using a multimethod approach including subjective, endocrine, autonomic, and immune markers and testing 313 participants in a standardized psychosocial laboratory stressor, we show that all three practice types markedly reduced self-reported stress reactivity in healthy participants. However, only the training of intersubjective skills via socio-affective and socio-cognitive routes attenuated the physiological stress response, specifically the secretion of the HPA axis end-product cortisol, by up to 51%. The assessed autonomic and innate immune markers were not influenced by any practice type. Mental training focused on present-moment attention and interoceptive awareness as implemented in many mindfulness-based intervention programs was thus limited to stress reduction on the level of self-report. However, its effectiveness was equal to that of intersubjective practice types in boosting the association between subjective and endocrine stress markers. Our results reveal a broadly accessible low-cost approach to acquiring psychosocial stress resilience. Short daily intersubjective practice may be a promising method for minimizing the incidence of chronic social stress-related disease, thereby reducing individual suffering and relieving a substantial financial burden on society.
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published almost 2 years ago
The mechanisms underlying hyperarousal, the key symptom of insomnia, have remained elusive, hampering cause-targeted treatment. Recently, restless rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep emerged as a robust signature of sleep in insomnia. Given the role of REM sleep in emotion regulation, we hypothesized that restless REM sleep could interfere with the overnight resolution of emotional distress, thus contributing to accumulation of arousal. Participants (n = 1,199) completed questionnaires on insomnia severity, hyperarousal, self-conscious emotional distress, and thought-like nocturnal mentation that was validated to be a specific proxy for restless REM sleep (selective fragmentation: R = 0.57, P < 0.001; eye movement density: R = 0.46, P < 0.01) in 32 polysomnographically assessed participants. The experience of distress lasting overnight increased with insomnia severity (β = 0.29, P < 10(-23)), whereas short-lasting distress did not (β = -0.02, P = 0.41). Insomnia severity was associated with hyperarousal (β = 0.47, P < 10(-63)) and with the thought-like nocturnal mentation that is specifically associated with restless REM sleep (β = 0.31, P < 10(-26)). Structural equation modeling showed that 62.4% of the association between these key characteristics of insomnia was mediated specifically by reduced overnight resolution of emotional distress. The model outperformed all alternative mediation pathways. The findings suggest that restless REM sleep reflects a process that interferes with the overnight resolution of distress. Its accumulation may promote the development of chronic hyperarousal, giving clinical relevance to the role of REM sleep in emotion regulation in insomnia, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder.
While considerable research has addressed the function of animal vocalizations, the proximate mechanisms driving call production remain surprisingly unclear. Vocalizations may be driven by emotions and the physiological state evoked by changes in the social-ecological environment [1, 2], or animals may have more control over their vocalizations, using them in flexible ways mediated by the animal’s understanding of its surrounding social world [3, 4]. While both explanations are plausible and neither excludes the other, to date no study has attempted to experimentally investigate the influence of both emotional and cognitive factors on animal vocal usage. We aimed to disentangle the relative contribution of both mechanisms by examining howling in captive wolves. Using a separation experiment and by measuring cortisol levels, we specifically investigated whether howling is a physiological stress response to group fragmentation  and whether it is driven by social factors, particularly relationship quality [6, 7]. Results showed that relationship quality between the howler and the leaving individual better predicted howling than did the current physiological state. Our findings shed important light on the degree to which animal vocal production can be considered as voluntary. VIDEO ABSTRACT: